Private U.S. colleges, worried they could be pricing themselves out of the market after years of relentless tuition increases, are offering record financial assistance to keep classrooms full.
The average "tuition discount rate"—the reduction off list price afforded by grants and scholarships given by these schools—hit an all-time high of 45% last fall for incoming freshmen, according to a survey being released Monday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
"It's a buyer's market" for all but the most select private colleges and flagship public universities, said Jim Scannell, president of Scannell & Kurz, a consulting firm in Pittsford, N.Y., that works with colleges on pricing and financial-aid strategies.
It is likely that some private colleges will be forced to be even more generous with discounts this fall. As of the May 1 deadline for many high-school seniors to commit for their freshman year of college, early reports suggest some non-top-tier schools fell 10% to 20% short of enrollment targets, said Mr. Scannell.